What can help provide the stepping stones to the future we most want and deserve?
You can likely guess my answer: philosophy.
In a fascinating essay in Sunday's New York Times Book Review, where he ruminates on the nature of our culture right now, which can look very non philosophical, Leon Wieseltier nevertheless wrote:
Wherever mortal beings are thoughtful about their mortality, and finite beings ponder their finitude, at whatever level of intellectual articulation, there is philosophy. Philosophy is ubiquitous and inalienable; even the discourse about the end of philosophy is philosophy.
And while Wieseltier is correct in what he says, as far as he goes, it's not just when we're contemplating our mortality or finitude that we're engaging in philosophy. As he hints later in his essay, whenever we're trying to figure out real matters of worth, we're doing philosophy.
In our work lives, we're always thinking about the setting and attaining of goals. We do that in our personal lives, too, if we have any measure of ambition concerning personal growth and change. But whenever we think of goals and the means to them, the question will always arise, at least implicitly, as to what goals are worth our pursuit and what means or methods are worth our time and energy. And those questions can't fully be answered without a sense of what sort of life is worth living. And that's the core of philosophy, in it's most practical and existential mode.
What's worthy of us? What's a waste? Who do I want to be? What am I becoming, as a result of what I'm doing? Does a certain activity lift me up, or lower me down? These are serious questions, but asking them and guiding our lives by them doesn't require that we be serious in the sense of somber. We can have fun in all the best ways. We can play and frolic, mentally and physically. We can enjoy immensely what the world has to offer, while still guiding our steps with wisdom and what the ancients called virtue, their own concept for personal strength, or power.
Philosophy may be one of the most under-appreciated necessities in life. But that doesn't keep it from being necessary. The more we come to appreciate it, the better we can do it, and the more our lives benefit, as a result. Let it help provide you with the stepping stones to the future you most want and deserve.